The Ugly American

Team America

America...FUCK YEAH!!!

I love America.

I really do.

I love its beauty, its vast landscapes, beaches, and mountains.

I love its wide variety of choices and cultures.

I love its music, its art, its movies, its toughness and its weaknesses.

I love New York City, San Francisco and New Orleans. I love Chicago and DC. Shit, I even love Baltimore, West Virginia and New Jersey!

But I have to say that after a recent two-week excursion to Italy that I am not too sure if I have that same love for Americans.

Not all Americans (of course) there are plenty of awesome ones! Like any reading this post (you, yes, YOU are totally awesome!).

I am sure you have heard the term “The Ugly American” at some point in your life. In general, yes, we are quite an ugly nation of people. When you have 300 million and counting, percentages say that not all can look like Brangelina. But what I came to learn upon said trip to Italy was that the term does not necessarily refer to an American’s looks. It’s referring to the American attitude. We are a pushy, cocky, self-centered, loud people and nowhere else does this become more apparent than when you travel abroad. And look, I am no world-traveling-snob, this was my very first trip across the pond, but it didn’t take long at all to realize just how easily an American sticks out in a city such as Florence. For one thing, Italians call it Firenze not Florence. They also call Rome “Roma.” I guess they simplified it for our sake? For another, you can usually tell an American by hearing them, in that, you HEAR them. Sure, I probably pick out the American accent easier than, say, a Swiss one, but it’s the sheer volume of how we speak that separates us from our European brethren. That is not to say there aren’t plenty of loud Europeans. Oh yes, there are quite a few of those too. I suppose it’s because our land is so big (along with our food portions, cars, and bellies) that we feel the need to make sure our speaking voices are heard. And if you are from the East Coast like me then you probably talk loud because you spend half of your conversations trying to talk over the other East Coasters you are conversing with (we tend to all speak at once).

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Just a Dream

Last night in my deep slumber I had a simple yet strange dream.  In my dream I found myself in the year 1974 at the age I am now. All in all things weren’t too bad.  Despite the fact that I had no internet or cable TV, I was able to function just fine.  Can you believe that?

It wasn’t until I wanted to listen to some in dream tunes that I realized that there was a problem.  Seeing how I was in 1974 my ipod was years away from even being a fathomable concept, I was at a loss.  In my dream I began to lament the fact that it would be decades before I could listen to some of my favorite music that is just a few clicks away in my conscious world.

Radiohead, the Black Keys, Cee-lo Green, Jackie and the Treehorns, Adele (yes, I admit it.  The sassy Brit has soul), and the like wouldn’t be recording for years to come.  What could I do? Then it hit me.  Being in 1974 didn’t mean I would have to suffer.  Not in the least bit.  In my dream I tried to remember who exactly would I want to listen to in 1974.

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Happy Birthday Uncle Bruce!

Bruce Springsteen is my uncle. Well, not real direct uncle like a sibling of one of my parents. Just a cousin that we all call “Uncle.” Or maybe my mom just used to joke about inviting “Uncle Bruce” to my birthday parties because she knew I had a possibly unhealthy obsession with Bruce Springsteen.

Being a Bruce fan is an odd place sometimes. A lot of my closest friends and band mates weren’t/aren’t Bruce fans. (I’m sure most of them, especially my cohorts here at Bums Logic, are rolling their eyes realizing it was only a matter of time before Todd used this space to idolize his Boss once again.) As popular and worldwide famous and critically acclaimed as Springsteen might be, there’s a certain uncoolness about being a Bruce fanatic. And I guess that fits the narrative of Young Bruce feeling alienated and alone and discovering through Elvis and the Beatles that rock’n’roll could not only save you, but it was your only hope.

I was turned on to Bruce Springsteen and his mighty E Street Band in the early 80’s by my sister’s college boyfriend. He had vinyl bootlegs of the legendary Winterland show as well as the one from the Agora in Cleveland, both from the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour in 1978. I taped them from his albums to my hand-labeled cassettes and was on my way.

Soon after, Born in the U.S.A. was released and “my guy” was suddenly the biggest rock star on the planet. I saw him at the Capitol Centre in Largo, MD, the month I turned 14. Perhaps that vulnerable age mixed with the power of those legendary live shows and I was doomed (blessed?) to be cemented for life as a Bruce Fan, I don’t know. But I still feel like that night I found out that there really was a circus to run away with. I’d be reminded again, by everyone from the Grateful Dead to The Roots and by Springsteen 11 more times over the years.

So Uncle Bruce turns 62 today. Which makes it seem like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and the Stones must be in their 80s. Love him, hate him, or respect him with indifference, but may everyone be lucky enough to still have his energy when they reach that age. Or at least be saved by rock’n’roll.

It’s the End of R.E.M. and I Feel Fine

Hopefully the people who spent the day with “Everybody Hurts” on repeat have talked themselves down off the ledge and realized that R.E.M. calling it quits is a no-big-deal decision that’s probably for the best. Soon as the news broke everyone was “reporting” it by posting “R.I.P R.E.M” on Facebook and Twitter and either pretending to be sad or cracking jokes about how they thought R.E.M. broke up years ago.

Good for them for calling it quits and going out on a high note (review below). Sure, some people thought they overstayed their welcome by 10 or 15 years already. Personally I still love their first 5 albums, but never could get into their mellow mid-to-late era albums. And yes, I’m including Automatic For The People, allegedly a consensus masterpiece. Sorry, I always found it to be overrated. Most people reading this now think I’m an idiot. Oh well.

They lasted 30 years. We didn’t need them to go on and on like the Stones. So don’t be sad, just put a bow on it, put ‘em to bed, and know that you can always visit them as you remember them best. We’ll help start the healing by reprinting our reviews of their most recent album (Collapse Into Now) and the reissue of their best (Reckoning).

R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now (2011)

R.E.M.’s new album Collapse Into Now just breathes where its predecessor was trying to breathe fire. It’s nuanced, whereas Accelerate simply pushed the needle attempting to rock its way back to their early sound.

Accelerate was a fine record, and its sometimes-generic rockers are as good as some of the similar-veined material on Collapse Into Now. But the new one succeeds by acknowledging that the mid-tempo meditations (and mandolins!) are also part of the classic R.E.M. sound.

The clean mix puts the spotlight on Peter Buck, without turning everything up to 11. It combines a healthy dose of the acoustic atmospherics and mellow moments (that led them toward the sleepy missteps of their recent work) with enough energetic rockers to keep everyone awake.

Forget all the “finding their religion” puns, finally all of their sounds collapse into now.

R.E.M. – Reckoning (1984, reissue 2009)

r.e.m.’s first album was called murmur and when the second one starts you think maybe it could be called hypermumble but it’s not it’s called reckoning which is a pretty cool title i guess and it’s a really cool album. the guitars are jangly but not annoying and the melodies are catchy but this isn’t pop music this is cool college radio music from back when such a thing still existed before they started calling it alternative rock before alternative rock became so popular that by definition it was then pop. it’s still hard to hear what the singer is talking about but he mentions swallowing the ocean, a short-haired boy or girl (i’m not sure), catacombs, a camera, this season, a handshake is worthy, the tower, alone in a crowd, and during one song he just keeps repeating that he’s sorry. the one where he says "i’m sorry" is a lot of people’s favorite song from this album but i grew up in rockville, md, and went to rockville high school so of course we all thought the song called "don’t go back to rockville" was the coolest song since in some way it was possible that it might be about us even though we kinda knew that it probably wasn’t. this album came out in 1984 and ever since then every band in america and most other countries tried to sound just like this album whether they knew it or not except for all the bands that tried to make sure they didn’t sound like this album. in 2009 the people that make the records made a new version of r.e.m.’s reckoning that they cleaned up and made sound all pretty even though the spirit of the sound of this album is kinda scruffy and off the cuff to begin with it still sounded great after it was all dressed up in fancy sound quality because it was always beautiful on the inside.

Week 3 NFL Picks

There’s a few old adages in NFL wagering, like beware of road favorites or be careful betting on that one obvious easy play that everyone else loves. I’m going against both of those warnings this week.

First, the road favorite. It’s not going out on a limb to suggest that the Detroit Lions might be for real. It’s a pretty risky prospect to back that up by taking the Lions giving points on the road to a division rival. The Minnesota Vikings might be 0-2 right now, but they’re not that far removed from their run the NFC championship. But the Detroit defense will stifle Adrian Peterson just enough, and Donovan McNabb won’t be able to save them. Soon as Matthew Stafford gets a couple TD’s on the board and a sack/fumble by McNabb puts the Lions up 21-3, the crowd will be out of the game and we’ll all be wondering why Detroit wasn’t favored by more. Take the Lions -3 at Minnesota.

Now for the Joe Square Public Pick That Will Still Win: Patriots-Bills to go Over 54. I know that’s a pretty high total, and it’s already been bet up from the opening line of 51, so the whole world and their degenerate-gambler mothers love the over in this game. This is the first “really big game” in Buffalo in a long time, featuring two QB’s who sling it around against defenses that can’t really stop anyone. Too obvious, huh. Vegas knows all this so they set this total so high that maybe we should take the under? Could have a “playoff atmosphere” and the semi-shootout only gets to around 31-20 and it stays under the total? No way. 30-27 or 31-24 will push it over, and I still think this one will be more like 38-30 Pats. Take Bills-Patriots Over 54.

I also like New Orleans -3.5 at home against the Houston Texans. The Saints have battled the Packers and Bears so far while Houston has been on the JV circuit, sparring with the Manning-less Colts and the lackluster Dolphins. The Texans step up in competition this week against Drew Brees and the Saints in what will also be their first hostile environment of the year. Saints might cruise in this one, but even if it’s not a blowout, New Orleans will cover the spread easily.

Teaser of the Week: Take the Titans and tease them down from -7 to -1 at home against the Broncos by pairing it up with the Steelers, teasing them down from 10.5 to a much more manageable -4.5 at Indy. Tease Titans -1 with Steelers -4.5

 

Last Week: 2-2
This Season: 5-4

Just a Quick Post

I rarely wax poetic about politics on Bums Logic but for an instance as grand as the news today I will make an exception.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell died today.  That is a good thing.

The biggest example of why this is a good thing: Imagine being gay and your partner is serving in combat operations oversees when the unthinkable happens and they are  killed in action.  Under the old rules you would never be officially notified.  Ever.

If you oppose the ban being overturned, think about that for a while.

Need Cash?

I recently returned from some much needed R&R taken on the sandy beaches of the Florida gulf coast.

The trip was amazing.  The water was clear and warm while the beach was clean and not crowded in the least bit.  I got to lay around and really enjoy some time away from my work and home life.

Given that I was on vacation I went ahead and spent some money on things that I probably would usually not.  For the first time ever I rented a wave runner, which to be perfectly honest, was a little scary at times.  Zipping along at +40 MPH can make you think that should you be thrown from the vehicle, even though you are going to land on water, the shit is going to hurt.  Nevertheless, I pressed on and had a field day out there on the open water tearing it up.

On top of the wave running adventure I took in the fun past time of mini-golf.  I also spent some time in a rather large human maze which while somewhat fun I was ready to be out of that thing after about 15 minutes.  Additionally on my trip I ate well.  I am an ardent believer that the solid cornerstone of vacation travel is fantastic dining.  Without good meals on your journeys, you might as well have stayed at home.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that all of the fun activities I enjoyed came with a price tag.  Sure zipping around the maze on a wave runner while eating a waygu steak and cheese was the tits, it is also a little costly. Thankfully I am gainfully employed as a contributor for Bums Logic so I could easily afford my vacation luxuries without having to duck my landlord with the rent for the month.

Having the money to go on vacation is great but still, wouldn’t it be great to have some additional money to help finance my adventures? Sure a Holiday Inn is comfortable enough but aren’t the 1000 count sheets and jacuzzi tub in the Omni properties just a little more comfortable? Amirite?

So after looking at my bank balance and considering my income I thought about ways in which I could supplement my cash flow.  After a long Sunday of watching some professional football I have come up with a fail safe plan that I am willing to share with all of you.

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The Whole Wilco: Tweedy Finds a Fix for the Fits

Just as their home base of Chicago sits between LA and New York, Wilco occupies a vast middle ground, having been dubbed with the seemingly opposite labels of “alt-country pioneers” and “the American Radiohead.” Somehow they both fit, as evidenced on their fine new LP The Whole Love. And all that ground between those two labels is the area that Wilco has been working in the decade since their consensus “best album,” 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Fans and detractors alike are tough on this band as far as expectations. Their albums are all “good” so we take them for granted (not unlike The Roots if you want a strange-but-fitting comparison). When they’re not great, we accuse them of phoning it in, but when they get too ambitious, we say they’re trying too hard. They can’t win. We find them either too boring or too weird.

“Found a fix for the fits/
Listen to this/
It’s buried under the hiss… and it glows”

Jeff Tweedy’s personal fits with addiction and depression are known and don’t need to be re-examined here. But on top of those, and even in his recent sober/happy days, he’s still battled fits of trying to live up to or match the masterful Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album without remaking it. Wilco has tried everything: the experimental, the poppy, the rootsy, the Dad rock; usually all within one album. Yet somehow there were enough near misses that most of us resigned ourselves to the idea that Wilco would never make another truly great album again, but they’d continuing making good ones and that was okay.

Until now. The Whole Love sounds to me a lot like Summerteeth, the underrated gem of a record that serves as the bridge between their two “best” albums, Being There and YHF, both chronologically and sonically. Just something about the way several of the tracks literally bounce along. The songwriting, and the performance and sound of it, it just feels effortless, though I admit that I have no idea what that means and it’s a ridiculous way to describe an album.

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Parents Guide to Birthday Parties at Bouncy Places

You’ve all been there, or you’ll be going there. The Birthday Party at a Bouncy Place is pretty easily navigated, actually. So consider these advanced tips for maximizing your experience.

OK, so, let’s be clear, we’re not talking about those small places in the corner of the mall with one little bounce thing and a ball pit. I’m talking about these industrial-sized warehouse-housed Bouncy Places with several Huge Bouncy Things, obstacle courses with huge climbs and slides, castles, bouncies with full court basketball hoops, the whole deal.

Big bouncey places make big bank.

Here’s how it works: they shuffle you all into the sign-in/waiting room area and you sign the waiver which must have all sorts of legalese about how they aren’t responsible for your inevitable separated shoulder. You’re sitting there at 2:59 for this 3 o’clock party that cost your friend/cousin/sister like $250 but you’re waiting cuz the Underhill family’s 2 o’clock party is still bouncing around. They paid $300; they have more people and got a different package.

Finally, they let you in, and here’s where, as a parent, just get ready to breathe in not only the stale plastic-meets-sanitizer scent of the place, but also get a big whiff of that pure joy on your kids’ face as he runs, no sprints toward Some Huge Bouncy Thing. Screaming. It’s pretty amazing.

While we’re bouncing, the Underhill party had been shuffled into the Party Room to get the pizza portion of their party package. And so this place is just constantly rotating parties of 25 or so, taking $250/pop, herding us from room to room, blasting us with extreme exhilaration followed by pizza and cupcakes. It’s like a drop-off point for cash. It’s practically money laundering. It’s more like the cocaine trade, just easy money, giving these wonder-seeking little kids the ultimate high of holding the keys to climb as far as they possibly can and jump and tumble down and bounce around and crash into stuff and, basically, just go crazy. It’s like they’re flying.

Soon, the girls in the orange shirts are rounding us up and getting us off the bouncy stuff and over to the cubbies to put our shoes back on and hit the party room.

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Weak, er, Week 2 NFL Picks Against the Spread

It’s only week 2 in the NFL, which means it’s okay to hitch your wagon to some probably mediocre teams that no one yet believes in. One of them might emerge as a surprise overachiever, but most likely they are destined for the 5-11-to-7-9 crap heap.

Sure, there are some marquee match-ups like San Diego at New England and Philly at Atlanta. But wagering on the big national TV games can be a trap. It’s better to put your money on your best picks, not necessarily on the Game of the Week or the one you know you’ll be watching on TV. So sometimes that means slummin’ it with a few undervalued bottom-dwellers. That’s right, this week I’m rollin’ with the Bills, Lions, and Redskins. Let’s get to the picks to find out why.

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People Asked, I Answered

Since I have been writing for Bums Logic the administrators have been inundated with letters and emails from readers of the blog that have been addressed to yours truly, JrWorthy42. At the behest of my editors I have done my best to personally reply to each and everyone of them.

Email

You asked, I answered. It is the least I could do.

However, given the immense volume of messages that are sent to me I am not able to always reply in a timely manner. If you are one of the many folks that have taken the time to write in with questions for me, please know that I am doing my best to ensure that you receive a personal reply.  If it is the case that you do not hear from me personally it probably has to do with the fact that I get creeped out by some of you from time to time.  In those cases perhaps it is best that you take it personally because it is you and not me.

To the guy that requested a clean pair of my underwear, why? If there is one way to make me feel uncomfortable asking for a pair of my freshly washed boxer briefs will get you sent to the front of the line for those that will never have their request met. I mean, a clean pair?  Weird.

While I do my best to respond to every message I thought that answering some of the messages here on the blog would be a real treat not only for those who wrote but for every reader and fan.  So without further ado,

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Against the Spread: Week 1 NFL Picks

Ah, football is back and it gives me the munchies. In this economy, or lack thereof, the only safe investment is to gamble recklessly on pro football point spreads. Time to revive the NFL Picks column and give out a few best bets against the spread for Week 1.

Over the last two years of picking games for a football website, I went 128-100. Nothing great, but good enough. This year I bring the column to Bums Logic in hopes of helping some of you degenerate gamblers and office pool players some tips on winning a few bucks this year. You’re welcome. Donations accepted.

Wait, this just in, someone else just made the “this just in, the Packers just scored another touchdown” joke. Now onto the Week 1 NFL Picks:

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Freddie Mitchell’s Cousins Hall of Fame

Welcome to Freddie Mitchell’s Cousins Hall of Fame, a place to chronicle brushes with fame, or more accurately, brushes with near fame and distant non-brushes with fame.

Freddie Mitchell might still be kinda sorta famous.

Let me try to explain. Obviously, a brush with fame would be something like sitting next to Robert DeNiro on a plane. Or meeting Peyton Manning at a charity event, getting your picture taken with him and perhaps some officially licensed gear autographed. But that’s not what we’re talking about. In keeping with the football analogy, Manning is a very famous and accomplished athlete, a future Hall-of-Famer and one of the most marketable athletes in sports. Freddie Mitchell was a marginal-at-best wide receiver who’s forgettable tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles is only remembered by the bizarre fact that Mitchell thought of himself as the next Jerry Rice. The guy is a nobody, he’s not even a trivia-question answer like fellow wideout David Tyree (unless you think we should count catching “4th and 22” from Donovan McNabb against Green Bay).

And so Freddie Mitchell is the perfect namesake for our mundane list of near encounters with B-listers as well as our twice removed associations with people who had real brushes with fame. Also, our very own Jr.Worthy actually worked with Freddie Mitchell’s cousin.

As for my credentials… I once served hummus to Crispin Glover. He was doing some strange spoken word performance art tour thing back in the mid-90’s and I was supporting my drumming habit by working part-time at a vegetarian restaurant when Glover’s “show” came through town. Apparently he was a vegan or a macrobiotic or whatever, I don’t remember. But my boss and chef extraordinaire Sue was tasked with making his dinner. Late in the afternoon, the screen door slams and in creeps Crispin Glover, grinning not quite ear to ear, hair framing his face while his skeptical eyebrows tried to make sense of the salads and sides we had displayed in our front cooler.

Crispin Glover: just as McFly in person.

Finally, the meek man who once played McFly asked “is that… hummus?”

It was in fact hummus, and I served some to Hollywood actor Crispin Glover. He asked for water, and back then we used to just serve it up in a mason jar, straight from the sink. It was safe and clean, but sometimes it just needed 20 seconds to settle after appearing cloudy. In my haste to serve this visiting megastar as fast as possible, I handed him some still-cloudy water in a jar. Crispin Glover raised the glass, not in toast or tribute, but close to that signature pointed nose of his and gave it a quick, disappointed examination and slowly turned to find a seat.

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If the Cover Fits: Great Art to Match Some of the Best Albums of 2011

You can’t judge an album by its cover, but there’s something about when certain albums seem to match their covers, often in some odd unexplained way. For me, it’s not something obvious like “yea, it’s a picture of the band playing the music,” but something much subtler. So this isn’t necessarily my 10 Most Favorite Albums of 2011 so far (though many of them might make that list if it existed), these are just 10 Favorite Covers That Happen To Match Their Music Well. Or something like that.


The War on Drugs
Slave Ambient
The kind of album that’s hard to describe: it’s lush and dreamy but it still has an organic sound and chugging pace that seems in conflict with itself. Same for how many tracks sorta hum along on what seems like just one chord and yet you don’t feel bored. It’s an interesting drone, if that’s even possible. Like Bob Dylan meets Velvet Underground. Slave Ambient sounds how that cover looks. It’s this very strange intersection of electronica and Americana, though it doesn’t overtly sound like either.

PJ HarveyLet England Shake
Stark and fluttering, subtly explosive, beautiful yet blunt. PJ Harvey delivered one of the finest albums of the year so far and this black and white cover is just sharp enough for the occasion.

Jay-Z and Kanye WestWatch the Throne
Is that not the perfect cover for Jay Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne? Just pure gold. Delicate wrapping, and you could say at times some paper-thin rapping as well. The cover doesn’t tell you the title or the artist (of course, you already know that you are in the presence of royalty), it simply conveys luxury. Insisting that it is the best of the best because, well, it’s the most expensive. But what’s inside? Like the cover, the album is more flash than substance. The only promise that’s really delivered here is that of more luxury. Expensive samples, top notch production, and signature styles (for better and worse) of the two co-star’s verses about, well, luxury. More gold rapping. The only album cover that might have been more appropriate would be a scanned image of their bank statements and tax returns.

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Bite a Dick You Quivering Douche Bag

In or around 2004 fellow Bums Logic blogger Todd.Levinson.Frank and I had a web site called Eight Track Mind. It was partially our bands site along with what was essentially a blog. We wrote stuff and posted it our site much like we do here. Only that back then blogs weren’t as big as they are today.  When we launched Bums Logic we re-posted some of our favorite writings from that site and dated them as such. Top Ten Most Overrated Musicians/Bands or Pink Floyd’s Discography Review are two such posts now appearing on Bums Logic. A third re-post was of a semi-controversial topic: Top Ten Reasons Why Neil Young Is Better Than Bob Dylan. Ha! What idiocy I have writing such things. So I am a fan of Neil Young and Bob Dylan I just happen to lean more towards Neil. When I wrote the piece I was looking to rile up some online conversations and partially trying to play a devil’s advocate to the oft held belief that Dylan is the bees knees.

The original posting led to some interesting exchanges with readers. Mostly Dylan-loving loyalists who were astonished to be reading such ridiculous nonsense. And let me remind you about this or any other blog: In the end, it’s all ridiculous. Posts are written based on opinions because that is what each and every one of us has that is 100% unique to ourselves: our opinion. It could be ones based on taste: Hey, I like that beat and singer. It could be based on influence: My friend Matt said he heard this band, check em out. Or it could be just a pure gut-feeling about something.

I understand the need for some people to take full advantage of their free speech and post comments on as many blogs as they choose. They are at least making themselves part of a conversation. When it can lead to fluent, thought-provoking dialogue then you have nothing but knowledge to gain from it.  But when it comes to the point where someone feels the need to express themselves by opining on your state-of-mind or throwing personal insults at you, well, then its all fair game my friends.
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Precious

In the past I have shared with you my amazing athletic skills and sheer physical gifts.  Today I wish to share with you my, shall we say, more sensitive side.  Yeah that’s right ladies and gentlemen, not only do I rival the Greek god Hermes in the sporting arena but I am also blessed to be graced with an eye for the arts just like his half brother Apollo.

Here now, on this magnificent blog, I present to you an example of my unparalleled graphic design skills.  Be prepared to behold artistry the likes of which you have never seen before.

Warning to those of you that do not deal with disappointment well for if you view the image after the jump you may wish to have your eyes gouged out so that you will not have to ever see anything ever again because you know that nothing could live up to its certain and understated greatness.

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